Last week’s roll call was an easy one straight up; all you really had to do was pick mostly the Vegas favorites and you could have run a dozen correct picks easy. I came in at 13-2 with my only miscalls being Detroit’s unlikely meltdown and New England’s epic exorcism.
In a season that has otherwise been a temporal storm of uncertainty, that was one easy lineup of games to wrap your head around.
Now let’s get back to the TUFF STUFF.
Colts at Texans
The most impressive thing about Indy’s win against Baltimore this past weekend was how energetic and active they were on defense giving Joe Flacco fits all day. Elite talent or not, playing active defense is a recipe for success; just ask Peyton or Tony Dungy about Super Bowl XLI. This defense reminds me of that unit. The Texans, overall, have a top flight defense for sure but they are not that good against the run and not good enough against the pass to matter with Luck chuckin’ it around the way he has all season. I don’t like Fitzpatrick to keep up with Luck tossing five TDs or something ridiculous like that as the game wears on. Unless the Texans jump out to a very quick and big early lead, this one is a lock.
Bears at Falcons
The Bears are such a statistical nightmare to evaluate. They are practically league average in every efficiency cat across the board whether it be offensively or defensively, in the box or in the secondary. Strangely, they just keep losing games and won two questionable ones and could very easily have a much worse record. Now they go on the road to play a Falcons team that is completely different at home in a must-win situation. Not that they’re any good but the Falcons will do what the Packers did and outscore them faster on the way to a victory.
Patriots at Bills
One of the contenders for Game of the Week. As much as I would like to call for a letdown by the Pats after their statement game on Sunday night and pick the Bills and their elite defense at home, I don’t trust Kyle Orton. He got away posting a nice stat line while playing a mediocre game because of the volume. Still, to be fair, he gave Buffalo a slightly better chance than EJ had been and for that, you gotta give him credit. I think the Patriots are going to harass him to no end. And if rediscovering the dual TE scheme is working for Brady, that might be enough to outscore the Bills readily on the road in a key AFC East battle between two 3-2 rivals.
Panthers at Bengals
Whatever you want to say about these two teams, here is something that must be said: these are two defenses that are in need of showing up big this week. I believe they both do meaning this will be a sludgy, grungy low scoring affair. With AJ Green hobbled or out entirely, the Bengals are going to pound the rock with Gio and Hill against a Panthers team that has looked susceptible to the ground game. The Bengals’ D will have much to prove after getting smacked by the Patriots. Fortunately for them, they don’t have to worry about Carolina’s rushing (fortunate because that is Cincy’s biggest weakness defensively) since they have about one and a half healthy bodies back there. If Cam is forced to catch up through the air on the road, it may be a long afternoon. Or Superman, I dunno.
Steelers at Browns
The AFC North is really tight and at the bottom of the division are the 2-2 Cleveland Browns, a team that maybe ought to be 3-1 or maybe even 4-0 right now were it not for a last second meltdown/FG against division rival Baltimore and a really sluggish start to the season against these same Steelers a month ago. In fact, the Browns have won or lost all four of their games by less than 3 points! Which means they’re just as likely to be 1-3 or even 0-4! Hahaha this whacky game that we love. Anyway. I love what the Browns are doing this year and can’t wait until they get their full roster but they are going to get shredded in the air by Big Ben who, along with Antonio Brown’s epic season, has been a monster. The Browns are fortunate to have an offense that can clearly move the chains when it needs to (and that did storm back on the Steelers in Pittsburgh before falling just short). But I just don’t know if they can hold them under 30 with an already tore up secondary now also missing CB Joe Haden.
Jags at Titans
While the Titans have a win on their season and the Jags are winless, these are two teams with significantly different outlooks. The Jags are clearly going through growing pains but have an exciting young QB throwing the ball to a couple of exciting young athletic receivers. Their run game leaves a lot to be desired and their defense has been getting wrecked but they showed a little life last week. This week they visit a Titans team that is in such disarray, it is hard to figure out how they got there. More and more it is starting to seem like their week 1 triumph over the Chiefs who have since then improved in all areas was fluky at best and that this team is more or less the team that hasn’t been able to win since (and looked like shit while at it). They have an irregular commitment to the run game which isn’t doing well anyway and can’t keep their starting QB on the field. That is a recipe for disaster. And what is more disastrous than the Jags getting their first win against you in your own house?
Packers at Dolphins
The Dolphins certainly had plenty of time to prepare for the Packers with the bye and all. They’re also at home this week. And it still won’t matter a whole lot. The Packers are coming in scoring points unhindered, have rediscovered their run game and despite giving up a lot of yards defensively, also force an impressive amount of turnovers (tied for tops in the league). Tannehill does make mistakes from time to time and I think the Packers dictate the tempo of the game, force aforementioned mistakes and ultimately outscore the Phins. By a lot.
Lions at Vikings
There is a real temptation here to roll with the home team. Minnesota is getting Teddy Bridgewater back in action and that instantly boosts this offense’s value to around where it was when it shredded Atlanta en route to that beatdown. The Lions defense surely is not the Falcons defense … but there’s something seriously wrong with the Lions offense and that may very well be the determining factor of this game. They weren’t able to put up all that much in the way of points against Buffalo although Buffalo sports a pretty snazzy defense themselves. Still there has to be concern about a team without Megatron, without a healthy Reggie Bush and with a struggling Matt Stafford. Expect the Vikings to finally get Patterson and Wright going at the same time and more semblance of a running game than they showed last week. If they can score points against Detroit’s defense at home in Minny, look for the Vikes to win.
Broncos at Jets
What can we say here? Yeah, yeah, Any Given Sunday, That’s Why They Play the Games, These Are All Pros… should I dig up anymore antiquated NFL clichés to describe the 2% chance the Jets pull off this upset at home? They’d have to break Peyton’s neck in half for that to ever happen. The Jets can stop anybody’s run game… but what if they are playing a team that doesn’t even run the ball because they have Peyton and his fifty good-to-great receivers? Why am I still typing?
Ravens at Bucs
I was thinking about this one for some time. The Ravens are heavy favorites in terms of being picked to win no matter the line. They are one of the most solid teams in the league, no doubt. And yet I am still rolling with the Bucs at home. They have looked entirely different the past two weeks and barely lost in OT against an absolutely desperate Saints team. Fact of the matter is the Bucs are headed back to Tampa for the first time in nearly a month, are likely to play much stauncher defense at home and will square off with a Ravens team playing their second road game in a row. That is a recipe for a monumental upset. And don’t forget; these same Bucs pulled an equally impressive upset of the Steelers just a couple weeks ago. Roll em.
Chargers at Raiders
Should I be the only not-completely-insane person to pick the Raiders here? After all, you’ve got a home game coming off a bye against a divisional rival that you have played tough in other purported lopsided matchups in the past. A game against a team that has been on such a profoundly good roll, it is almost inevitable that they are overdue for the sort of clunker that a team like the Raiders can take advantage of. There’s also this whole new coach thing and the ball he buried. You know, this is the perfect game for the Raiders to stomp the Chargers. You know… that game that I will be rolling Saturday Night on Madden when I play pretend that I am the new head coach/GM of the Oakland Raiders. Utterly STOMP.
Redskins at Cardinals
Kirk Cousins and the Redskins looked much better last week against the top defense in the league than they did against the rival Giants the week before. It just didn’t matter because they were utterly outmatched. That said, they have a far more manageable match up this week against a team that is just riddled with injuries and missing players. The funny thing is that even with all those injuries, the Cards are good enough defensively, especially against the pass, that it could make all the difference in the world at home. Especially with the Redskins coming to town on a short week. There’s also the matter of Arizona possibly getting Carson Palmer back and that would be a huge boon to an offense that was already finding ways to win with Drew Stanton under center.
Cowboys at Seahawks
A contender for Game of The Week. It has been a nice little roll that the Cowboys have been on. They’ve won games that got out of control for their opponents and they won games that were close and tenuous. Impressive thus far, the Cowboys travel to the toughest place to play in the league to play against the best team in the NFC and possibly still the best team in the entire NFL. Unfortunately, this is where their run temporarily ends. I just don’t see them going into Seattle and beating this defense (especially when Dallas’ bread and butter these days is running the rock with Demarco Murray and the Hawks are now one of the better run D’s around) let alone being able to stop Russell Wilson who right now looks to be about as dominant a QB as you can be without spending a majority of your time in the pocket. Wilson makes throws that don’t make any sense given where he is and where the play is. The Redskins found out the hard way that the guy has about 50 eyes and they are all over the STADIUM let alone anywhere on his head. And Marshawn Lynch is probably the best overall running back of the past half a decade. Nice run but no dice this week, Dallas.
Giants at Eagles
This will be fun. Another contender for Game of The Week (I should have just titled this blog entry GAME OF THE WEEK, amirite?). Most of the nation is split 50-50 on the outcome of this one; that goes to show you just how unpredictable this game will be. That said, common wisdom suggests that in such a push, the home team is the one that has the ever so slight edge and while I am normally inclined to give that notion tread, these are two teams giving me entirely different impressions right now. The Giants look confident, dialed in and able to beat you with a suddenly reliable and balanced offense. Even without Jennings running the rock, rookie Andre Williams has looked strong and bruising bludgeoning in between the tackles in his stead. The return of Odell Beckham Jr. and the emergence of Larry Donnell gives Eli Manning four legitimate weapons in the passing game with which to rip apart a porous Eagles defense. On the flip side, the Eagles are an interesting dichotomy. While it is impressive that they have been scoring in a bunch of different ways, the fact they aren’t scoring consistently on offense is alarming. Even though they finally got LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles a lot of meaningful touches and they moved the chains a bit, neither scored… leaving the Eagles to build a large lead on blocked kicks and turnovers. While that works against crappy teams, these are not reliable ways to beat good teams. Home team or not, I expect the Giants to go all BIG BLUE on the Eagles and their cute little all black unis they plan on rollin’ out on Sunday.
Niners at Rams
This is one game the Rams won’t be able to climb back into if they fall behind big early on. Unlike the Eagles, the Niners will collect turnovers like Disneyland Pins. Good running football teams are great road teams because they can quiet the crowd and control the tempo by pounding the rock. The Niners, now that they’ve returned to their rushing strengths, are that kind of team and I expect them to control the game, harass Austin Davis and put up a healthy amount of points on the road on the way to a 4-2 record. Lock it up.